CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A state medical examiner told a jury Wednesday that an infant girl died of blunt force injuries to her head last fall.
Larry Allen Hayes Jr., 23, is on trial in Kanawha Circuit Court in the death of Rebecca Grace McDaniel, the daughter of his former fiancée. He faces a charge of child abuse causing death.
Dr. Allen Ray Mock, who performed the girl's autopsy, spent about two hours Wednesday afternoon testifying about his findings -- including a large, curved fracture that stretched over five inches of the girl's skull.
Blunt force injuries caused the massive head wound, he said.
"What is the manner of death?" Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Jennifer Meadows asked Mock.
"The manner is homicide," he said.
Meadows flashed dozens of pictures of the autopsy on a projector screen in the courtroom so Mock could explain the specific injuries that he found on the girl. In the photos, purplish bruises dotted McDaniel's forehead. Others had formed behind her ears and on the back of her head.
Another contusion was visible on top of her scalp, which apparently matched one of the places her skull had cracked.
Assistant Kanawha public defender Richard Holicker, Hayes' lawyer, objected to prosecutors showing the most gruesome of the autopsy photos -- some of which depicted the infant's fully extracted brain -- on grounds that the pictures would prejudice the jury. Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib Jr. overruled the objection.
On Sept. 30, Hayes was watching the girl at his South Charleston home while her mother, Meredith Bush, worked at an IHOP restaurant off Corridor G.
Hayes later told investigators that nothing had happened the entire day, and he only noticed that the girl had a problem as he was driving her to see her mother at work. He said he reached into the back seat to shake the girl's foot and found her unconscious, according to court records.
McDaniel died three days later.
Prosecutors maintain that she suffered her fatal injuries between the time Bush left for work and when Hayes took the girl to the IHOP.
"Because of that false assumption," Holicker said in his opening statement, "the state never looked beyond its theory -- and it's just a theory -- that Mr. Hayes committed an intentional act against Becca that resulted in her death."
Holicker said that McDaniel often fell and injured herself. On Sept. 24, while with her mother, she had fallen off some steps and hit her head on a pink, plastic four-wheeler toy. Bush took her daughter to the hospital after the incident, but the doctors, assuming that the girl had injured her leg, did not bother to scan or x-ray her head, Holicker said.
Holicker told the jury that after the girl's death, Bush told police something that Holicker claims has been ignored during the course of the investigation: "Any time she falls backwards, she always wants me to rub her head because she always thinks that she hit her head."
Holicker also said detectives had coerced a confession out of Hayes. He said Hayes, after hours of interrogation, made up a story about falling down the stairs while holding the girl.
"The truth," Holicker said, "is that Becca died because her brain swelled days or weeks after hitting her head in an accident that Larry had nothing to do with."
During his testimony Wednesday, Mock said that the fall down the stairs -- which Hayes had re-enacted for police while holding a doll in his arms to represent the girl -- and the fall into the pink four-wheeler toy were inconsistent with the injuries he found during the autopsy.
The trial continues Thursday.Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Tay...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.